Optometrists will be front and center during the month of March as several organizations put the focus on eye health and eye safety as we head into Spring and eventually the Summer seasons. Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest eye health and safety nonprofit, has declared March as Workplace Eye Wellness month and is providing sight-saving resources to employees and employers alike. In addition to Prevent Blindness, other organizations, including the American Optometric Association and the Centers for Disease Control, are focusing on various eye health and safety programs this month. Prevent Blindness is providing free resources, including an overview of proper eye protection and safety glasses for various industries, as well as information on the effects of extended digital screen use.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 15,730 eye injuries involving days away from work in 2020. Proper eye protection minimizes the risk of significant eye injury. Prevent Blindness recommends that the type of eye protection that should be used depends on the hazards in the workplace.

For example, someone working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, should wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task should be worn.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. Eye and face protection must be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological or mechanical irritants and hazards. OSHA also requires that employers provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their workers, and ensure its proper use. Additionally, employers are also required to train each worker required to use PPE.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends eye protection for a variety of potential exposure settings where workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure. According to the CDC, infectious diseases can be transmitted through various mechanisms, among which are infections that can be introduced through the mucous membranes of the eye (conjunctiva). These include viruses and bacteria than can cause conjunctivitis, and viruses that can cause systemic infections, including bloodborne viruses, herpes viruses, and rhinoviruses.

For those in an office setting, the average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home, according to the American Optometric Association. Employees who work primarily using digital screens, such as computer monitors, tablets and smart phones, are at increased risk of digital eye strain. Symptoms of eye strain include sore or irritated eyes, blurred vision and headaches.

Prevent Blindness recommends the following:

  • Screen time: Try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of these screens and/or take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest.

  • Filters: Screen filters are available for smart phones, tablets, and computer screens. They decrease the amount of blue light given off from these devices that could reach the retina in the eyes.

  • Anti-reflective lenses: Anti-reflective lenses reduce glare and increase contrast and also block blue light from the sun and digital devices.

  • Intraocular lens (IOL): After cataract surgery, the cloudy lens will be replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). The lens naturally protects the eye from almost all ultraviolet light and some blue light. There are types of IOL that can protect the eye and retina from blue light.
“Practicing eye healthy habits in the workplace today, like wearing proper eye protection, and decreasing the amount of screen time whenever possible, can help save our sight now and for years to come,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. For more information about workplace eye health topics, including the effects of prolonged digital screen use, and eye injuries, visit preventblindness.org.

Save Your Vision Month Is Here as ODs Remind Patients to Prioritize Their Eyes in 2022

March is optometry's time. It is when doctors of optometry celebrate Save Your Vision Month, which traces its founding to 1927 by members of the American Optometric Association. The annual public health observance is happening just before a new phase of the AOA’s Eye Deserve More campaign kicks off this spring, but optometrists don’t have to wait to participate. Read more about the Eye Deserve More campaign here.

Save Your Vision Month reaffirms how doctors of optometry, America’s primary eye health and vision care providers, deliver essential health care that goes beyond a vision correction prescription and should be a critical component of patients’ preventive health regimen. This month—and year-round—the AOA is reminding patients to prioritize their eye health and vision care in 2022 by scheduling their families’ in-person, comprehensive eye exams.

The annual public health observance will kick off a new phase of the AOA’s Eye Deserve More campaign this spring, building on an impactful 2021. More thorough examinations. More expert analysis. More personalized care than you could ever get with an“online vision test”—that’s the message of Eye Deserve More, the AOA said. And that’s what you can expect from an in-person comprehensive eye exam from and AOA doctor of optometry. From pro athletes to everyday people, everyone deserves more when it comes to their eye health.

Since April 2021, the AOA’s Eye Deserve More campaign has earned more than 3.6 billion impressions and 3,000 media placements in national and local news outlets; generated 26 million impressions on social media and 91,000 clicks on the AOA’s doctor locator; and amplified its message with partnerships between USA Surfing’s Caroline Marks,  pro-basketball player Tacko Fall and their AOA doctors. To see the the impact of the Eye Deserve More campaign click here. Increasing screen time and the popularity of gaming opens an opportunity for the profession to demonstrate how regular optometric care can help keep patients’ eyes healthy. To help amplify these efforts, the AOA will provide a suite of customizable materials and resources, as well as communications materials to utilize over the course of the year.

The Save Your Vision Month campaign officially launches in spring 2022, but the AOA is encouraging ODs to get involved now: ODs can spread the importance of Save Your Vision Month by sharing posts from AOA’s social media calendar on their social channels. Share a patient testimonial that helps the AOA tell the story of optometry’s essential care. Learn more about collecting patient testimonials or read those that have been shared already.